ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Apr 24 2014

Andorra became the 10th member state of the Council of Europe to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The “Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence”­­ – known informally as the “Istanbul Convention” – is the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence. It sets out minimum standards on prevention, protection, prosecution, and services. Countries ratifying must also establish services such as hotlines, shelters, medical services, counselling, and legal aid.

The Convention will enter into force on 1 August 2014

Learn more about the Convention here.

Apr 23 2014

20 Years after Cairo
Women: Continue to reproduce but never mind about Sexuality

Reflections from feminist activists across generations and from around the globe

Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ) has been working hard since 2010 to advance global health and population policies to consider women’s and young people’s autonomy over their sexuality, and not merely their reproduction, as critical to realizing human rights, social justice and development objectives.  In the last four years, we have seen the landscape of global feminism working on sexual and reproductive health change leadership, generations, politics, and strategies. We feel triumphant at having shaped the spaces where we work and engage, even if governments haven’t changed theirs.

The 47th United Nations Commission on Population and Development ended early Saturday morning, April 12th, with a reaffirmation of the Cairo Programme of Action, including a recommitment to continue placing women’s and girls’ reproductive rights and their sexual and reproductive health at the center of population and development. The Commission also expressed deep concern about the pervasiveness of gender-based violence and reiterated the need to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence and harmful practices, including child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The Commission further called on governments to address persistent inequalities and discrimination on any grounds, including through the unfair and discriminatory application of laws. In this regard, it committed to establishing affirmative action plans to promote the development and protect the human rights of afro-descendants and indigenous peoples. These are all important advances, and we will continue to demand accountability for their realization.

RESURJ members are extremely disappointed, however, that the Commission failed to agree on ensuring access to safe and legal abortion and to ending multiple and intersecting forms of violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Nepal, India and Cuba tried to champion the removal of abortion restrictions by taking steps to review laws that punish women for undergoing illegal abortions, and more than fifty nine countries[1] called for ending violence based on SOGI specifically. Moreover, many governments expressed strong support for advancing the human rights of all to control all aspects of their sexuality, collectively known as “sexual rights.” These calls, both to recognize “sexual rights” as such, and to end gender based violence and discrimination based on SOGI, were omitted from the final text.

The leadership of the Commission’s Bureau was questionable; to put it mildly, and there was complete lack of transparency and due process during the negotiations, which allowed a small group of conservative countries to block language on sexual rights in the final agreement. The absence of sexual rights from the text elicited strong rebukes from many government delegations during the closing plenary: “Our governments will not be pushed backward for fear of accepting reality,” said the Philippines, while South Africa called for more “inclusive societies” and most Latin American governments stated that “in order to fulfill social justice and human rights in development, the sexual and reproductive rights of all individuals must be protected and fulfilled”. The support by many for enshrining sexual rights at the United Nations was unprecedented, marking a historical moment in our joint struggle for achieving justice for all.

To us, it is clear that the Cairo @20 process has failed not only us, but all women and girls. Women’s sexuality continues to be stigmatized, oppressed, and considered “dangerous” to the prevailing patriarchs who are in power. Unsafe abortion is still a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. It is still a social justice demand for billions of mostly poor, young, and disadvantaged women. Access to safe abortion “where legal” is no longer sufficient. Hundreds of women are being imprisoned in Latin America for terminating their unwanted pregnancies, and their health and lives are at risk. Abortion is not a crime and no woman or girl should be punished for it. The attempt by the few governments that tried to push for this language was quickly dismissed or unsupported by the majority in every region. This goes to show that the political will for guaranteeing women’s reproductive autonomy is still severely lacking. It is shameful that in this day and age, with the technologies that we have, women still dying every day.

But not all is lost… We will continue to struggle in our own communities and countries to speak truth to power. We will continue to fight until all women- in its entire list – poor, rural, urban, living with HIV, lesbian, trans, bi, disabled, indigenous, afro-descendant, dalit, sex worker – are free, making free and informed decisions about our bodies, claiming our rights, and having equitable and non-discriminatory access to all the health, education, and legal services we need and which are our human rights.


[1] Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Viet Nam, Republic of South Africa, Suriname, Uruguay, USA, the European Union and the Pacific Islands.

Source: RESURJ

Apr 22 2014

The outcome document of the 47th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development which took place in New York on April 7-11 is now available online.

Access the Resolution 2014/1 HERE.

Apr 15 2014

UN Commission on Population and Development Identifies Gaps in Human Rights and Health of Women and Young People

NEW YORK—The 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development ended early Saturday morning, April 12th with a call from governments to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as key priorities for sustainable development. The Commission urged world leaders to integrate these rights into the new development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals, which are set to expire in 2015.


The weeklong Commission was convened at the UN headquarters in New York to assess 20 years of progress since the groundbreaking agreements made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. At Cairo, 179 governments agreed that women’s health and rights—specifically sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights—must be central to global development policies, programs, and funding, and are the key to reducing the social and economic inequalities that exist worldwide.

 

At this critical juncture in the post-2015 process, governments have renewed the commitments made in Cairo in 1994 and since. The right to control one’s fertility and sexuality is fundamental to social and sustainable development and governments have agreed it should be a core part of the next development agenda. Now we need strong leadership from governments to lead us into the next fifteen years.

 

Despite significant progress since Cairo, the Commission recognized that the global community has yet to fulfill the promise of equitable and universal access to quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health care services. To address these gaps, the Commission urged governments to expand access to confidential and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive heath-care services for youth and adolescents, including comprehensive, evidence-based education on human sexuality and measures to prevent and treat HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The Commission also called on governments to train and equip health-service providers to ensure that, in circumstances where abortion is not against the law, abortion is safe and accessible, and to intensify efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support without stigma and discrimination.

 

To move the vision of Cairo forward, the Commission called on governments to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and to address persistent inequalities and “discrimination on any grounds,” including through the unfair and discriminatory application of laws. It further called on governments to establish affirmative action plans to promote the development of Afro-descendent populations and indigenous peoples.

 

The Commission also expressed deep concern about the pervasiveness of gender-based violence and reiterated the need to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence and harmful practices, including child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

 

Throughout the week, many governments expressed strong support for advancing the human rights of all to control all aspects of their sexuality, collectively known as “sexual rights.” In addition, 59 governments explicitly called for action to end discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The calls came from countries as diverse as the Philippines, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, Viet Nam, Nepal, Mongolia, Suriname, the United States, Australia, Norway, the European Union, and most Latin American countries. These calls build on similar agreements made during regional reviews of ICPD in Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific in 2013.

 

However, a striking lack of transparency and due process during the negotiations allowed a small group of conservative countries and the Holy See to block language on sexual rights in the final agreement. These same governments also made several vitriolic attacks on the role of civil society in a clear attempt to silence progressive voices. The 11th hour move to block sexual rights elicited strong rebukes from many government delegations during the closing plenary: “Our governments will not be pushed backward for fear of accepting reality,” said the Philippines, while South Africa called for more “inclusive societies” and Norway stated that “discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be tolerated in any society.”

 

Despite the fact that African governments affirmed sexual rights in a regional Ministerial agreement on ICPD Beyond 2014 in October 2013, many African delegations refused to accept inclusion of the term in the global agreement. Nevertheless, the support for sexual rights expressed in the room was unprecedented, and marked an historical moment in the ongoing struggle for universal human rights.

 

Governments will reconvene in September at the UN General Assembly to renew political support for the actions required to achieve the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action.

Apr 11 2014

Today is the last day of the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development.

Yesterday the Polish ASTRA member also serving as ASTRA Secretariat, Federation for Women and Family Planning delivered oral statement. Read it HERE.

 

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